Media reports about inaccurate estimates of just how many jobs have been saved or created under the federal economic stimulus law came back to bite Obama administration officials testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this morning.
The hearing, which continues this afternoon, has been very partisan, with Republicans questioning the administration’s estimate of 640,000 jobs created or saved under the stimulus program, and Democrats saying that, without the stimulus, the economy would be in even worse shape than it is now.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the top GOP member of the committee, went so far as to call the administration’s estimates “propaganda.”
Deputy Secretary of Education Anthony Wilder Miller, the department’s money and management guru, is among the administration folks testifying before the committee. He told lawmakers that the agency was able to get almost $67 billion out the door relatively quickly, in part because it already had systems in place for much of that money, including funds allocated through formulas for special education and the Title I program, which serves disadvantaged students.
Miller said the department has done significant outreach to grant recipients and held biweekly webinars explaining the stimulus reporting requirements. And he said the department will put together a document detailing what it’s learned so far in implementing the stimulus.
But Republicans questioned the 300,000 education jobs reported created or saved so far. Issa said many of those jobs were “simply transfers to pay for teachers,” and that states spent the money elsewhere. He also implied that the public sector isn’t the greatest place for job creation. “School teachers are important, federal workers are important, but that’s really where this has gone,” he said, rather than the private sector. And Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio, noted that states and districts are going to face a funding cliff as soon as the stimulus money runs out.
For their part, Democrats have largely defended the stimulus law and its impact, while making it clear that it’s important for taxpayers and Congress to get accurate jobs data. But not all Democrats are without criticism of how the program has gone. Earlier this week, Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wisc., the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, lambasted the Obama administration for fuzzy stimulus math.